Theocritean Pastoral: A Study in the Definition of Genre

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Chapter 1. Idyll I: ΘΥΡΣΙΣ Η ΩΙΔΗ

The measured repetitions of the initial verses of Theocritus’ Idyll I establish a pattern that characterizes bucolic poetry as thoroughly as the herds and herdsmen that are its literal subject. Repeated words and motifs, parallelism of phrasing and of actions, meticulous imitation, emulation, and recapitulation, facilitated by a standard vocabulary and store of fixed metaphors—these elements define the pastoral not only for its originator, Theocritus, but for Vergil and his followers, who adhered to these integral forms while establishing a centuries-long history for pastoral poetry in Western literature. These features of style so effectively mark the genre that we acknowledge their preponderant impact by describing pastoral as “stylized;” the power of its distinctive conventions is reflected in the usual epithet “conventional.”

The value judgment accompanying such terms in critical studies must be suspended in the attempt initially to describe the genre; and the established description comes as a surprise in Greek literary history. After the giant metaphors of Aeschylus, the flight of the Sophoclean choruses, the intensity of personal inquiry and identity in Euripidean tragedy; after the realities distilled from history by Herodotus and Thucydides and from philosophy by Plato; [1] after the lapidary confessional asides of Hellenistic poetry, in which Theocritus shows mastery when he chooses; why, after this various achievement of the unique and the original in literary expression, do these qualities yield to a chosen emphasis on the stylized, the repetitious, the conventional? Is this the dead end of Greek invention? What, in the history of Greek literary inspiration, can be compared to this willing restriction of motif and diction, the insistent recapitulation of theme within a form that insists on its rigorous and undeviating constriction?

The paradoxes that the fact of oral poetry present to the student of literate poetry repay their demands on the critical imagination with a vision that regularizes the quirks and perversities that seemed before to blot the perfections of archaic poetry. The notion of originality, with its converse specters of staleness, repetition, and imitation, obsessed the Romans in their self-consciousness as a derivative literature, obsessed Vergil above all. But what has loomed ever larger down to modern times was a concept without impact for pre-literate Greece, and that never achieved, in Greek literature, thematic pre-eminence.

The repeated ideas of oral poetry are those essential to its theme: the most concentrated expression of its subject matter. Concentration here takes on a specialized meaning, imposed by the nature of the oral process, and implies not merely the inclusion of an element but its precise selection and its distinctive orientation in the given work. Every element of an oral composition—characters, actions, objects, qualities, processes—has endured the sifting and polishing of a long past. It appears as the chosen and modified survivor best adapted to its particular niche in the poem, and represents, in a particular performance, the end product of genuine evolutionary pressures. Such “Darwinian” refinement has ample scope to operate on grounds beyond metrical utility. It makes its choices and amendments in order to secure and conserve those ideas appropriate to the goal of the composition, and so structurally to incorporate those ideas as to heighten that decisive relevance.

Theocritus is not an oral poet. The implications of this obvious truth are made vivid by the emphatic terms in which A.B. Lord establishes the premier oral poet, Homer: [5]

Artificiality is a term which has become a commonplace of Theocritean criticism—often as a term of praise. It is not usually associated with the archaizing aspect of the poems, but rather with their Hellenistic elaboration and neologisms; Gow makes this point in introducing his recension:

Inventiveness, though disconcerting to the precision of the philologist, is gratifying to the modern literary critic, whose claims for his author can only be enhanced by proofs of novelty and uniqueness. Nor are such proofs compromised by the detected influence of old poems. The very terms in which Lord, above, condemned the “literary” poet that Homer was not, become terms by which to measure Theocritus’ definitive virtues: ingenuity and synthetic power. The manipulation of venerable shards and their deft insertion among tesserae of the most contemporary reference are then perceived as the very essence of Theocritean charm. [8] A mosaic style signifying multiple intent gains applause as the ideal achievement of the new aesthetic, whereas the old would have balked at its misappropriation of past glories and recoiled from the over-ingenious hodge-podge of its motivations and literary goals. The refined insincerity of this Theocritus contrasts with the practice of an earlier poetics, in which sincerity was beside the point.

Lord’s evident concern is to secure appropriate interpretation for a poetry whose terms of reference have been lost except to the painstaking rediscoveries of scholarship. But his warning against the seductive and delusive potential of “the meretricious virtues of art” gives us a glimpse of a point of view that comprehends the “art for art’s sake” school of Theocritean merit. The academicism, the narcissism, the infinite graduations of tone that have been mapped and accounted for by the patience of critics and historians are not the only elements in Theocritus with which we must come to terms. We cannot know whether—despite the confident parallels so often assumed between Theocritus’ poetic objectives and those of Yeats or Pound or Eliot—these are even the elements with which he would most readily have identified himself.

The modern poet insists on the differing rules of life and of art. For him, the question is not one of the Muses, in their inscrutable detachment and externality; but of his own dual capacity to utter lies and to tell the truth. This brooding internal potential—compromising the status of all creative effort, clouding the standard by which to distinguish the products of these mental gates of ivory and of horn—obsesses modern poetics and determines, almost exclusively, the poet’s relation to his art. Hence we have masks, masques, mimes, false faces, personae: a world of devices to gather the poet into the artifice of eternity, or to highlight his entrapment in a compact with language or society hostile to his vitality. The conventions of pastoral, so ingeniously unreal, so winningly contrived, seem in their hoary stability to fit exactly this vision of poetry. The key to their perennial favor, their aesthetic stamina, is supposed to lie in the degree to which, from the first, they embraced the double standard of appearance and reality and made it the foundation of their effect. The artifice of the swain is his essence. Verisimilitude becomes a family joke of the genre. We humor the landscape of pastoral as a hale old fiction and esteem the nodding elms of the locus amoenus just insofar as their roots are frankly in imagination and not in any common earth. The goals of the whole performance are transparently intellectual. It is no coincidence that our most suggestive modern critic of the pastoral, William Empson, is best known for his book Seven Types of Ambiguity.

But just as the preciosity of milking a goat into a bowl is especially apparent to those whose milk flows exclusively from paper cartons, so modern poetic consciousness may overestimate the pervasiveness of those concerns that are closest to it and view them as integral where they were in fact peripheral, or unguessed at. The compression, the stylization, the allusive and elusive structure of the Idylls may suggest interpretive strategies founded on Baudelaire or Wallace Stevens; but the thematic emphasis of Theocritus cannot be assumed to coincide with the pseudo-modernity of his forms.

Ἁδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς, αἰπόλε, τήνα,
ἃ ποτὶ ταῖς παγαῖσι, μελίσδεται, ἁδὺ δὲ καὶ τὺ

(I, 1-2)

This is the ultimate rationale for the curious apparatus of the pastoral world: the flocks and pipes, streams and shepherds whose entanglement with each other as an end to poetry has been skeptically viewed by generations of critics. Theocritus sought to express particular emotions, which he indicates at the outset in his key adjective ἁδύ. As a skilled and innovative artist inheriting a rich tradition—which, however, had not yet addressed this specific material—he constructed an objective set of objects and situations as the complex and potent formula of those emotions. The degree of adequacy of this correlation is still to be judged by the profound sense of artistic “inevitability” that dominates our response to the pastoral Idylls, regularizing their idiosyncrasies and resolving their mysteries by its aesthetic imperative.

This is not to dispute the personal, social, and political circumstances that so clearly determined much of the specific content and tone of Theocritus’ work, [18] nor to argue that those poems that appear to be intimately motivated are certainly independent of the poet’s own experience. Indeed, the very pressure of court politics and of private relationship may have urged Theocritus toward a formulation of those alternate values that became the pastoral. But the force of Eliot’s point here is to remind us that neither the emotions of art nor their vehicle (the “objective correlative”) are to be taken literally, as if they were an unmediated aspect of reality. Every act of art is an act of interpretation, an act of culture as against nature. The significance (in Eliot’s terms) of the feelings and emotions within poetry is not to be estimated as a meticulous scale model of actual experience, within a margin for the “standard error” imposed by technique or style. To an even greater extent than music, dance, and the visual and plastic arts, poetry—using as its medium the product of an exclusively social contract—displays its identity as a cultural artifact.

In Paul de Man’s concentrated argument, language cannot exchange that participation in culture for a successful imitation or realization of the different terms by which natural objects exist. Why it should wish to, in the poet’s fancy, is a question that de Man and other students of literature and intellectual history have profitably addressed. Why critics should wish it to, as an unspoken assumption, and therefore involve in their analyses of, for example, the pastoral, extraneous fallacies of literalism is a problem that we cannot resolve but should be aware of.

The pastoral landscape, its inhabitants, and their activities must be seen as a practical solution—not to how to live in the world, but to a poetic problem: how to articulate certain significant emotions and the values that underlie those emotions. This was the Theocritean achievement, which we seek to describe. That his forms, which originated as precise “formulas” adequate to particular emotions, were later employed as vessels for new combinations of feeling and values is a predictable fate in the history of art. Pottery shaped and painted for libations may hold common water in its day; later flowers; and end on the museum shelf. Theocritean values, too, have found other homes, alternate and partial expressions—some of them earlier than the poet himself by many centuries. Yet they retain an affinity for their old forms, and are present, if only to be reacted against, in the transformed pastoral of later literature. The first of these values is the one put first by Idyll I: sweetness. The quality of this primary sweetness, elaborated through the final speech of the poem, is decisively set forth in the opening lines.

῾Αδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς αἰπόλε τήνα,
ἃ ποτὶ ταῖς παγαῖσι μελίσδεται, ἁδὺ δὲ καὶ τὺ
συρίσδες· μετὰ Πᾶνα τὸ δεύτερον ἆθλον ἀποισῇ.
αἴκα τῆνος ἕλῃ κεραὸν τράγον, αἶγα τὺ λαψῇ.
5 αἴκα δ᾽ αἶγα λάβῃ τῆνος γέρας, ἐς τὲ καταρρεῖ
ἁ χίμαρος· χιμάρῳ δὲ καλὸν κρέας, ἕστέ κ᾽ ἀμέλξῃς.
῞Αδιον ὦ ποιμὴν τὸ τεὸν μέλος ἢ τὸ καταχὲς
τῆν᾽ ἀπὸ τᾶς πέτρας καταλείβεται ὑψόθεν ὕδωρ.
αἴκα ταὶ Μοῖσαι τὰν οἰίδα δῶρον ἄγωνται,
10 ἄρνα τὺ σακίταν λαψῇ γέρας· αἰ δέ κ᾽ ἀρέσκῃ
τήναις ἄρνα λαβεῖν, τὺ δὲ τὰν ὄιν ὕστερον ἀξῇ.

(I, 1-11)

In this reciprocity the gods take an equal share. They compete—not only like, but with the Goatherd and the shepherd—in contests of singing and piping, and although it is courteously assumed that their deathless skill will secure the top honors, they can be counted on not to disdain a rustic prize. The satisfactions of an unmilked kid or a stall-fed lamb are as available to these divinities as to their humble comrades, and the concrete pleasure of possession is no more alien to them than the abstract gratification of victory. What the herdsmen reckon professionally as choice goods, the gods assent to as good; and the worth is grounded in natural value.

Vitality is the prime characteristic of the flock. It underlies every aspect of the flock’s worth: the potency of the horned buck (4), the fertility of the does and ewes (5-6, 9-11, 25-26), the abundant production of milk (26), the freshness of the kid and lamb as potential fare (6,10). Priapus (inevitably) singles out sexuality as their emblematic characteristic:

βούτας μὰν ἐλέγευ, νῦν δ᾽ αἰπόλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
ᾡπόλος ὅκκ᾽ ἐσορῇ τὰς μηκάδας οἷα βατεῦνται,
τάκεται ὀφθαλμώς, ὅτι οὐ τράγος αὐτὸς ἔγεντο.

(I, 86-88)

But the actual ἀιπόλος of the Idyll sees his flock differently. When he chides them, in the last lines of the poem, his tone is ebullient and tender. Jovial admonition caps a series of exclamations and imperatives.

πλῆρές τοι μέλιτος τὸ καλὸν στόμα Θύρσι γένοιτο,
πλῆρές τοι σχαδόνων, καὶ ἀπ᾽ Αἰγίλω ἰσχάδα τρώγοις
ἁδεῖαν, τέττιγος ἐπεὶ τύγα φέρτερον ᾁδεις.
ἠνίδε τοι τὸ δέπας· θᾶσαι φίλος, ὡς καλὸν ὄσδει·
῾Ωρᾶν πεπλύσθαί νιν ἐπὶ κράναισι δοκησεῖς.
ὧδ᾽ ἴθι Κισσαίθα, τὺ δ᾽ ἄμελγέ νιν. αἱ δὲ χίμαιραι,
οὐ μὴ σκιρτασεῖτε, μὴ ὁ τράγος ὔμμιν ἀναστῇ.

(I, 146-152)

The exuberance that cites the pleasures of both the honey and the comb, that precisely invokes exotic sweets to complement those of home and heaps up sensations of hearing and scent with ones of taste; that widens its scope to foreign parts for reward (147), wild nature for comparison (148), and the haunts of the gods for a graceful hyperbole of origin (150), smoothly extends the circle implicated in the harmonious interaction between shepherd and goatherd to include the herd itself. Seven lines serve to reestablish the elements and equilibrium set forth in lines 1-28, and the light touch with which these are sketched proceeds from an expansive optimism that replaces the somber mood of the Daphnis song.

Thyrsis, by means of his repeated invocation of the song’s closure and his formal acknowledgement of its end (including his farewell to the Muses and the direction of attention to a future performance), effects a gradual withdrawal of emotional focus from the plight of Daphnis, in which we were closely caught up, to the fact of the song itself: its finished emergence, its excellence. The Goatherd’s enthusiasm is partly a reaction to the accomplished gratification of his wish (23, 61) and confirmation of his opinion (20). As a response to the song itself, it falls between the keen personal involvement of Odysseus’ tears at the song of Demodocus, Penelope’s agitation in Odyssey I, or Achilles’ private rehearsal of the κλέα ἀνδρῶν, and, on the other hand, the faintly inhuman detachment of the Phaiakians, as represented by Alcinoös’ notable declaration:

τὸν δὲ θεοὶ μὲν τεῦξαν, ἐπεκλώσαντο δ᾽ ὄλεθρον
ἀνθρώποις, ἵνα ᾖσι καὶ ἐσσομένοισιν ἀοιδή.

(viii, 579-580)

As in all the pastoral Idylls, there is no commentary on the particular subject of the βουκολικὴ ἀοιδή, but rather an attentive and evaluative consideration of the given performance. The Goatherd neither identifies himself with nor dissociates himself from τὰ Δάφνιδος ἄλγε᾽ (19). Lycidas’ song in Idyll VII assigns the woes of Daphnis and the imprisonment of Comatus to a singer who is preceded or accompanied by the piping of authentic shepherds (VII, 70-72), and reference to the herdsman-status of each of these pastoral subjects is clearly made (VII, 73; 78; 87). But Thyrsis and his audience have no difficulty reassuming their actual identities as herdsmen: the singer is now impatient to begin milking, and the Goatherd ends the Idyll with full attention to his does.

If vitality expresses the worth of the animal prizes, what explains their presence—or that of the Goatherd’s cup—as objects to be bartered for a performance of pastoral song? Such an exchange is decorative, but is it exclusively so? Or might another perspective further illuminate its significance?

The indo-Europeanist Calvert Watkins, establishing “The etymology of Irish dúan ‘poem’,” [22] discusses the implications of the Irish poet’s traditional association with a patron. “The two are precisely in an exchange or reciprocity relation: the poet gives poems of praise to the patron, who in turn bestows largesse upon the poet. The institution is of Indo-European antiquity; exact parallels exist in Indic and Germanic, and it is ultimately to such a tradition that we owe the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. To the aristocracy of Celtic and Indo-European society, this reciprocal relation was a moral and ideological necessity.” [23] This force of necessity derives from the indispensable nature of the items exchanged: on the one hand, material support and security; on the other, the practical immortality of celebration in song. If the patron’s gift is behindhand or inadequate, the poet may justly present him with its reciprocal counterpart, substituting satire for celebration. Neither the poem nor the patron’s largesse is, thus, offered independently; rather, the principle of exchange binds each of the parties specifically, despite the fact that one offers tangible economic property and the other a performance/composition. Such a transaction appears to fall within the type described by Mauss, under the heading “Prestation, Gift, and Potlatch:”

Without confusing relations between Thyrsis and the Goatherd with the traditional complementarity of Indo-European poet and patron (eloquently and specifically recalled by Theocritus in Idylls XVI and XVII), we may find that this statement helps to explain the exchanges of Idyll I and to justify them, both vis-à-vis the aesthetic and the utilitarian critical points of view: the former seeking to preserve the song unsullied by commerce in milk and cups; the latter offended at the disposition of beautiful goods in response to the immaterial and the transient. An examination of Watkins’ terms clarifies this point.

The crucial equivalency obtains between the poem and the “don de nourriture,” that allows the former to be construed accurately as “[spiritual] nourishment.” [30] To understand the sense in which spiritual and physical food may be valued and exchanged on a single plane, with neither element viewed principally as an image of the other, we must recognize the appropriate conceptual scheme—“ce sont là des notions et des termes archaïques” [31] —as Mauss, for example, formulates it.

We can see the nature of the bond created by the transfer of a possession … this bond created by things is in fact a bond between persons, since the thing itself is a person or pertains to a person. Hence it follows that to give something is to give a part of oneself … It follows clearly from what we have seen that in this system of ideas one gives away what is in reality a part of one’s nature and substance, while to receive something is to receive part of someone’s spiritual essence … The thing given is not inert.

. . . .

It is in such a context that Thyrsis and the Goatherd formulate their competition and exchange their gifts. [


With the description of the cup (27 ff.) the pace of the poem slows significantly. Not only does the accumulation of detail enforce this change, in order to accommodate its sheer volume, but the structure of the poem becomes, for the time, narrative rather than dramatic, and the tone is modified accordingly. The particularities of the cup and its complex decoration are rendered with a fullness not of imagination, but of description, which occupies a quarter of the Idyll—half as many lines as the song of Thyrsis.

This wealth of attention represents an elaboration of line 56, for although the statement is made in conclusion, rather than introduction, to the verses on the cup, it motivates them and recapitulates their tone. A sense of wonder (θαύμα) and of the contemplation of a marvel (τέρας) dictate the account of the figures on the cup, as the several interpretive comments confirm.

The personifying attribution of emotion with which the Goatherd embellishes his account of the trailing ivy (ἀγαλλομένα, 31) is an example of the naive pathetic fallacy that stands in marked contrast to the careful similes for which Thyrsis provides the model in the opening lines of the poem. In saying that the ivy “glories” in its beautiful fruit, the Goatherd projects his own exuberance at the splendors of the cup and his attitude toward the grace and vitality that the ivy embodies. His enthusiasm for the excellence of his prize bursts forth in the next line (32), where the woman’s beauty and the craftsman’s skill are celebrated simultaneously in the phrase τί θεῶν δαίδαλμα.

The Goatherd points out the separate visual details of the cup, orienting them spatially (adverbs: 29, 32, 33, 39, 45, 55) for his fellow observer, whose presence he specifically acknowledges in line 40 (ἐφ᾽). But he makes no distinction between this concrete account and his animating interpretive comments. He has studied his treasure, rather than drink from it (59-60), and he interpolates a temporal element into the “story” of each carved depiction in order to present with adequate depth his experience of its quality. Therefore in static wood a vixen runs along the vine-rows; men speak alternately; a little boy plaits rushes and asphodel. Just as the ivy trails (29) but the acanthus is spread (55), the old fisherman both gathers his net for the cast (40) and is carved (39), along with the rock on which he labors: active and passive functions here present no conflict. On the level of representation, the fisherman acts; on that of literal presentation, he is enacted by the craftsman. The Goatherd’s pragmatic eye appraises that technical success, while his interpretive eye records the imaginative vision that the enacted figures serve.

To this the Goatherd adds an account of what might be thought inaccessible: the inner life and motivations of the figures. He “shows” us the woman’s shifting mind, as vivid as her carved smile; the old man’s eagerness, the boy’s delight, even the craft and perseverance of the second she-fox.

A final fourth level is incorporated: the Goatherd’s personal judgments. The hollow eyes of the suitors may be seen and their lovelorn state inferred, but it is the Goatherd who tells us that they labor in vain and that the evident preoccupation of the little boy, beyond its impending result of spoiled vines and lost breakfast, reflects, not frustration, but satisfaction and joy. The old fisherman, in his enduring vitality, is credited with the strength of youth because the Goatherd’s admiration so perceives him. The formal raiment of the woman is singled out because the Goatherd sees in it her elegance and aloofness. He approves the worthiness of her suitors when he mentions the beauty of their long hair, and the same adjective praises the natural wealth of the vineyard and secures tolerance for the child’s cricket-cage. The charm of the object itself justifies the boy’s feelings for it and establishes his action as graceful and creative, rather than trivial and undutiful. The little boy is purposeful and successful without effort; the old man embodies effort and purpose, though without success, while the lovers labor to no purpose, as well as unsuccessfully. Not only have they failed to gain their end (as the fisherman has as yet wrested nothing from the sea), they have failed to engage with their situation at all; like the two foxes, they energetically lay siege to an oblivious foe. The vixens and the little boy each look to what the other cannot value, so that there is harmony and humor in their skirmish, but the suitors go on fruitlessly competing with each other when their real frustration lies in the lady’s indifference to either of them. Yet her self-absorption does not win her the same satisfaction as the little boy’s. The old man, fully engaged with the reality of his struggle with the sea, is accorded both desire and dignity by the Goatherd and seems poised in equilibrium between effort and goal. There is a reciprocity between him and his situation that is expressed in his portrayal: sea-worn but on the brink, he hopes, of a rewardingly great cast. He is central in the description of the cup; central in its spatial organization and to its values, as the Goatherd communicates and celebrates them.

The description of the cup closes with a reference to the design of acanthus which the carver has interspersed among his figures. Its pliancy parallels the trailing of the ivy tendrils with which the lip of the cup—and the opening of the description—are ornamented. The Goatherd pays tribute to the artistic unity of the cup by mirroring its structure in his own observations, beginning and ending with the plant motifs which circumscribe and unify the scenes of human life that are its focus of interest. Weaving and winding, the ivy and acanthus bind the loose triptych together, and their character offers not only structure (as the rush and asphodel shaped the cricket cage), but also becomes an emblem of style. The order they impose is symmetrical, inexorable, but nonchalant in its softened corners, generous in its organic profusion, unpretentious in the scope of its leafy detail. This is the rustic aesthetic at which the Goatherd marvels, and he entertains no doubt of its accessibility and acceptability (56).

The delight and wonder that the Goatherd elaborates in his account of the cup is not qualitatively different from his enthusiasm for the remarkable she-goat who fills two extra pails. The depth of the cup, its newness, its fragrance, its fresh wax, its double handles merit as much praise as its design, but they are attributes that need no exposition. Just as the Goatherd’s description of the cup mingled observation, interpretation, and imagination, so his scheme of values includes practical, aesthetic, and philosophic (62) elements without explicit discrimination or hierarchy. The basic antithesis is between excellence and—not its opposite–but its absence. The annihilating force of Hades (64) establishes the issue of worth as one of survival, not selection.

In the song of Thyrsis, exist both a conflict and a clarification of values. Daphnis confronts Aphrodite and also states his position to his questioning friends. The scenes portrayed on the cup all involve conflict, as well. The lovers strive unsuccessfully against each other and against their lady’s detachment, while the old fisherman strains for advantage in his struggle with the sea and the child remains oblivious despite the two-pronged attack being launched against him. Between Thyrsis and the Goatherd, however, there is no conflict of values. This may appear to be a trivial or banal circumstance, contributing a gloss of good feeling that prettifies the Idyll. But the harmony that it reflects is more than superficial. Epic poetry incorporates both internal and external challenges to epic values within its essential structure; tragedy depends intrinsically on the conflict of values that gives meaning and stature to the tragic praxis, while comedy operates by reversing and countering one set of values with another. The dramatic and narrative aspect of these genres is propelled forward by the clash of values and the problems or impossibility of reconciling them.

Pastoral offers a different focus. Resolution is the norm, and its achieved state is the subject, rather than the goal, of Theocritean pastoral. Always transcending the boundaries of the individualizing concerns that define lyric, pastoral in its emphasis on relationship includes the potential for conflict among its necessary conditions; but variously exorcises the conflict itself. These exclusions precisely demarcate the genre. The values served by the pastoral, expressed in personal integrity and social harmony, lend themselves to such themes as peace, fulfillment, satisfaction, friendship. Idyll I states this pattern.


The Daphnis song begins, not with the crucial figure himself, but with a series of questions and statements that establish his context. His situation is put in temporal perspective as a past event that is to be represented in its particulars and that yet arouses speculation, reproach, regret.

πᾷ ποκ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἦσθ᾽, ὅκα Δάφνις ἐτάκετο, πᾷ ποκα Νύμφαι;
ἢ κατὰ Πηνειῶ καλὰ τέμπεα; ἢ κατὰ Πίνδω;
οὐ γὰρ δὴ ποταμοῖο μέγαν ῥόον εἴχετ᾽ ᾿Ανάπω,
οὐδ᾽ Αἴτνας σκοπιάν, οὐδ᾽ ῎Ακιδος ἱερὸν ὕδωρ.

(I, 66-69)

The scope of the haunts of the absent nymphs, the emphasis on the remote habitat of Daphnis’ wild mourners (71-72), and the journeys taken by his human and divine visitors establish a spatial context as well. The situation of “Daphnis wasting” (66) is initially shown, then, as a locus of attention in space, time, and degree (wild and tame; animal, man, and god). The breadth of response, which the performance of the present composition extends, is characterized not only quantitatively but qualitatively. The opening question introduces a note of remonstrance or regret, as if the absent nymphs had lost an opportunity to aid or console Daphnis. The insistent questions to the nymphs establish a pattern of repetition that marks the poem as a whole, but also an initial mood of anxious inquiry that pervades the first part of the Daphnis song. The somber parallel clauses that build up the assembly of mourning animals (71-75), inarticulate and symmetrical as a funeral frieze, are counterpointed by the crescendo of questions directed at Daphnis. No character addresses Daphnis more than once, and each asks an unanswered question. Hermes wants to know “who?”; the herdsmen, “what?”; Priapus, “why?”—and they meet with silence, while Aphrodite’s arch inquiry is countered with a pair of defiant questions in return (100-102; 105).

To her quasi-concealed challenge, he offers straightforward resistance (103), without euphemistic shrinking from the gravity of the stakes. To her seductive address, he responds with a frank enmity that acknowledges both his position and the reality of her own. Daphnis will not cooperate in her genteel fiction of reciprocal relations, her reductive metaphor that they share a game.

κεἶπε· ‘τύ θην τὸν ῎Ερωτα κατεύχεο Δάφνι λυγιξεῖν·
ἦ ῥ᾽ οὐκ αὐτὸς ῎Ερωτος ὑπ᾽ ἀργαλέω ἐλυγίχθης;’

(I, 97-98)

He meets her without illusion, unceremoniously dismissing her simper in three epithets that invoke her hostility in unvarnished terms.

τὰν δ᾽ ἄρα χὡ Δάφνις ποταμείβετο· ‘Κύπρι βαρεῖα,
Κύπρι νεμεσσατά, Κύπρι θνατοῖσιν ἀπεχθής·
ἤδη γὰρ φράσδῃ πάνθ᾽ ἅλιον ἄμμι δεδύκειν·

(I, 100-102)

To the playful tone of her barbed question, he opposes a stark inquiry that translates her conventional metaphor of wrestling into an image of mortality. The stylized conflict, the regulated violence of the athletic match are both exposed as a sham, a veneer to render the savage truth respectable, to bring the unspeakable into repartee. Like Achilles with Lykaon and later Hector, Daphnis has passed beyond participation in false covenants.

Beside Daphnis, the goddess seems light-minded, shifty; his grasp of reality humiliates hers. The futility of her gesture at lines 118-119 is the decisive expression of this discrepancy. As if violets had flowered on brambles and fair narcissus on the juniper, an impulse of generosity, of recognition, or self-restraint has arisen in Κύπρι θνατοῖσιν ἀπεχθής (101). But the bitter plight of Daphnis can bear no sweet reprieve, as he has well understood—and as she has not. As in the Iliad, as in the Hippolytus, human beings must teach the lesson of mortality to the gods, whom, in this crucial dimension of wisdom, they surpass. Yet Aphrodite’s wish to retrieve Daphnis from death represents her integration as the final element in a consensus that has bound the disparate elements of the sensible universe in an act, not only of common attention, but now of shared emotion. This unity of response on the part of his environment is one half of the movement that gives the Daphnis song its special stature. What is portrayed is a cosmic accord, and its corresponding element is Daphnis’ self-possession under trial. To his preservation of individual integrity, the world answers with an achieved integrity of universal proportion. The character of these conditions determines the optimism of the poem, while the reciprocity of their relationship expresses the essential motif of the pastoral.

The Daphnis song is frustratingly vague about the source of its subject’s difficulties.

‘Δάφνι τάλαν, τί τὺ τάκεαι, ἁ δέ τε κώρα
πάσας ἀνὰ κράνας, πάντ᾽ ἄλσεα ποσσὶ φορεῖται–
. . . .
ζάτεισ᾽; ἆ δύσερώς τις ἄγαν καὶ ἀμήχανος ἐσσί.
βούτας μὰν ἐλέγευ, νῦν δ᾽ αἰπόλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
ᾡπόλος ὅκκ᾽ ἐσορῇ τὰς μηκάδας οἷα βατεῦνται,
τάκεται ὀφθαλμώς, ὅτι οὐ τράγος αὐτὸς ἔγεντο.
. . . .
καὶ τὺ δ᾽ ἐπεί κ᾽ ἐσορῇς τὰς παρθένος οἶα γελᾶντι,
τάκεαι ὀφθαλμώς, ὅτι οὐ μετὰ ταῖσι χορεύεις.’
τὼς δ᾽ οὐδὲν ποτελέξαθ᾽ ὁ βουκόλος, ἀλλὰ τὸν αὐτῶ
ἄνυε πικρὸν ἔρωτα, καὶ ἐς τέλος ἄνυε μοίρας·

(I, 82-93)

These sole explanatory references are largely elusive—or allusive, if one makes the reasonable assumption that they invoke a myth that we have lost, but which was recognized on slight evidence by the contemporary audience. That the crux of Daphnis’ ἄλγε᾽ (19) is Ἔρως seems to be the clear point. Priapus call him δύσερώς τις ἄγαν καὶ ἀμήχανος (85), and this is undisputedly his situation, although on another level he is powerful enough to turn the tables and (103) be “a bitter pain to Love.” Whether Daphnis is an unwilling lover, an unfaithful lover, or an unrequited lover is obscure, but there is no question but that a πικρὸν ἔρωτα is the source of Daphnis’ crisis. This is sufficient for the purposes of Theocritean pastoral, in which love is always a disturbing factor for the individual, as we shall see in the course of our discussion. What the poem concerns itself with—and what it presents in careful detail—is the response of Daphnis to his situation and the reciprocal response of his human, natural, and divine environment to his plight. Our initial frustration may be mitigated if we realize that the Daphnis song gives us the information that we need to understand it, and that its omissions are relevant only to our curiosity, not to our comprehension.

Daphnis is no social hero like Odysseus, who speaks excellently to others and even converses internally with himself. Daphnis will make a statement, but not an exchange, will address those around him, but with finality, as if no further reply could be necessary—and truly so, if we see his stance as determined by the anticipation of death. Yet initially, his silence in the crowd of cries and questions invokes mute Ajax or the withdrawn Achilles. Whatever involuntary erotic isolation has led to Daphnis’ plight, his silence is an isolation that, as a chosen response, both dignifies his situation and manifests it in concrete terms. The source of his affliction is baffling, and the clamor of inquiry that it evokes only heightens the frustration; his sorrow is unknowable, even to the gods. But finally, it is not at issue. As in Eclogue X, genuine in this case in its imitation of Theocritean concerns, it is not the situation (much less the quality of emotion) but the response that is significant. Daphnis’ response allies him with tragic and heroic figures by association, but takes its meaning within the poem not from epic or dramatic tradition but insofar as his silence, like his speech, reflects values central to the pastoral genre: in this case, integrity—the central theme of Idyll I and of the Daphnis song that is its focus.

Integrity is a term that can have reference beyond the individual, but within the individual its principal manifestation is identity and the management of threats to identity. Daphnis successfully confronts such a threat. His energies are absorbed by this confrontation (100-113) and by the leave-taking (115-136) that its outcome enforces. He has no words to waste on explanation. The solicitousness of Hermes, the raillery of Priapus are both leveled by Daphnis’ unresponsiveness to the impotence of frustrated concern that marks the tone of the poem’s opening. The animals wail helplessly; gods and men inquire in vain—what is happening? and who is in control?

The arrival of Cypris answers this second question. She is the smiling Aphrodite of traditional formulaic characterization,

ἦνθέ γε μὰν ἁδεῖα καὶ ἁ Κύπρις γελάοισα,
λάθρια μὲν γελάοισα, βαρὺν δ᾽ ἀνὰ θυμὸν ἔχοισα, …

(I, 95-96)

yet transparently reveals her hidden agenda: vengeance for outraged pride. Her motives are not unlike those of the Aphrodite of Euripides’ Hippolytus. The coyness and indirection with which she taunts Daphnis, the emphatic contrast of her motives and manner, make her the very type of duplicity and the elemental adversary of Daphnis, whose integrity is his definitive quality.

Daphnis’ long speech—which occupies about a third of the song of Thyrsis, and centers that portion of Idyll I—begins as a rebuke and closes as a valediction. Like Hippolytus, Daphnis detests Aphrodite. What he expresses is no mere absence of personal affinity, but a repugnance and sense of threat that is generalized to include all human beings (100-101). The final epithet, ἀπεχθής, conveys both the hated and hateful character of Cypris, inverting the force and extravagance of Mimnermus’ praise: “τίς δὲ βίος, τί δὲ τερπνὸν ἄτερ χρυσῆς Ἀφροδίτης.” Daphnis’ satisfaction in being able to thwart baleful power dominates his response to his situation, and the final modulations of this emotion are not unworthy of the pastoral scheme.

Initially, however, they prompt an outburst that pours forth with the energy of Hippolytus’ misogynistic tirade.

οὐ λέγεται τὰν Κύπριν ὁ βουκόλος; ἕρπε ποτ’ Ἴδαν,
ἕρπε ποτ’ Ἀγχίσαν· τηνεὶ δρύες ἠδὲ κύπειρος,
αἱ δὲ καλὸν βομβεῦντι ποτὶ σμάνεσσι μέλισσαι.
. . . .
ὡραῖος χὤδωνις, ἐπεὶ καὶ μῆλα νομεύει
καὶ πτῶκας βάλλει καὶ θηρία πάντα διώκει.
. . . .
αὖθις ὅπως στασῇ Διομήδεος ἆσσον ἰοῖσα,
καὶ λέγε· τὸν βούταν νικῶ Δάφνιν, ἀλλὰ μάχευ μοι.’

(I, 105-113)

Yet the object of Daphnis’ revulsion is not women, but Aphrodite herself, who is attacked curiously, not as the agent of infatuation, but as its victim. Daphnis makes no issue of the justice or injustice of his own plight or of the common condition of subjection to love; he proposes no alternatives, like Hippolytus’ sexless procreation, and leaves the righteousness of his position unargued. On the model of his own victory, he identifies her “defeat” with the series of lovers whom she has been unable to resist. Their mortality links them with him as “victors” over the force of Cypris.

The fact that the power of Anchises and Adonis over her is seductive, while Daphnis’ is aloof, reinforces the idea that the basic value at stake is not erotic experience per se. Anchises and Adonis, herdsmen like Daphnis and inhabitants of the same pastoral landscape (106-107; 110), had the upper hand with Aphrodite, and her vulnerability is reiterated by the reference to Diomedes, who literally wounded her on the battlefield in Iliad V. The mocking tone of this incident, where she tests her powers in an inappropriate arena and suffers both pain and humiliation for it, infects the two examples which Daphnis has cited in parallel phrases above. She herself has introduced the terminology of gymnastic struggle; he extends and sobers the metaphor into one of armed conflict. This reflects, once more, his truer perception of the gravity of their encounter, but above all, in transposing her boast into the ironic context of a rematch with Diomedes, Daphnis proclaims both the emptiness of her pretended victory and the frivolity of the sphere in which she vaunts her power. Unlike the warrior whose prowess she claims, Aphrodite is subject to the very force she should control, as her relations with Anchises and Adonis attest. Daphnis’ taunting manner embodies his contempt for Aphrodite, but the examples with which he points his remarks offer a context for that contempt.

He turns from her abruptly, without leave-taking, as if he had no more attention to spare. The lack of transition here is of a piece with Daphnis’ summary treatment of Aphrodite, but the sudden shifts at lines 123, 132, and the stop at 136 suggests, also, the urgency of a last utterance, its terse economy dictated by the imminence of death.

Daphnis’ first farewell is to wild nature, to the horizons of a world bounded by mountains, not cities. The wolves, jackals, and bears that he salutes would have been the natural enemies of his flocks and undoubtedly, as for Adonis, his sometime prey. The bucolic landscape is not the Peaceable Kingdom. Far from projecting a corrected mental or moral order, it acknowledges unsentimentally the worth of the real. The first farewell is to the enemy, and they in turn mourn their loss in his passing out of the landscape. The loss lamented is not a particular relation, but relationship itself. Whatever exists, exists in mutual acknowledgment and interaction, and finds an aspect of its own identity in this reciprocal relationship. When Daphnis dies, the animals that mourn him are not drawn by supernatural (magic/Orphic) or sentimental (personal) attachment. They do not share his tears out of sympathy (Daphnis does not, in fact, weep for himself), in the sense that the garden in Tennyson’s Maud feels with the expectant lover.

There has fallen a splendid tear
     From the passion-flower at the gate,
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
     She is coming, my life, my fate
The red rose cries, ‘She is near, she is near;’
     And the white rose weeps, ‘She is late;’
The larkspur listens, ‘I hear, I hear;’
     And the lily whispers, ‘I wait.’

But Daphnis has not made himself; setting, circumstance, and function have made him, as his elemental declaration makes clear.

Δάφνις ἐγὼν ὅδε τῆνος ὁ τὰς βόας ὧδε νομεύων,
Δάφνις ὁ τὼς ταύρως καὶ πόρτιας ὧδε ποτίσδων.

(I, 120-121)

He identifies himself in terms of his cattle-herd, his action in pasturing and watering them, and the locale, with special reference to the cited mountains, forests, and named rivers in which this herdsman’s life has been led. Place, physical and functional, is his standard for self-definition.

Daphnis maintains that his essential integrity, out of which springs inevitably his discord with the aims of Eros, will survive in Hades:

Δάφνις κἠν ᾿Αίδα κακὸν ἔσσεται ἄλγος ῎Ερωτι.

(I, 103)

Yet the pathos of his death is not diminished.

This statement of Eliade is too strong to apply to Daphnis, or even to the heroes of unquestionably archaic Greek poetry. The memories of home that Achilles and Odysseus preserve are—whatever else they may be—personal, and of crucial importance in establishing just that tension between the individual’s felt affinities and his more complex final identity, with its decisive component of external events and circumstances, which, as one element, underlies the action of Homeric epic. In the hierarchy of values, however, embodied by Daphnis, the pathos of his personal death is overwhelmed by the triumph of his impersonal survival: a constellation that may be called tragic.

The appeal of Daphnis is to a norm; his freedom consists in affirming commitment to that norm, in a statement to which individuality in the modern sense is incidental. The individual is the relevant unit for action, but not for consciousness. Sexual love is rejected, not in its particularity of object or outcome but because its very essence is particularity, insistence on the personal in a sense that is creative to the modern, but reductive to the archaic, mind. Daphnis dies, not prudishly resisting one erotic experience or pettishly demanding another, but in opposition to an intrusive and annihilating authority. What distinguishes him from a modern hero is that he dies to maintain (for he cannot defend) not his individuality, but his impersonality.

This stance represents the sense in which Daphnis is a hero not in spite of, but because, he is a herdsman. Whether Theocritus, in the Daphnis song, is imitating an actual archaic poem need not be known in order to observe that the formal aspects and asserted values of the song are deliberately traditional. Traditional Greek poetry—whether its conventions are those of the overtly impersonal epic or those of the overtly “personal” lyric—embodies, in its preeminently public and social orientation,

Identifying a religious manifestation of this phenomenon of “anhistoricity,” Mircea Eliade speaks of “the transformation of the dead person into an ‘ancestor’ [which] corresponds to the fusion of the individual into an archetypical category.” [
43] In a rhetorical question, Eliade comments on this fundamental orientation toward human identity, asking

In his death, Daphnis participates in this irreversibility, as he is well aware (I, 130). His pitiless clear-sightedness on the subject of his own mortality is Iliadic in tone, if not in context; as in the epic poem, man knows a lesson about life that is denied to the gods, except through human example.

                              τά γε μὰν λίνα πάντα λελοίπει
ἐκ Μοιρᾶν, χὡ Δάφνις ἔβα ῥόον. ἔκλυσε δίνα
τὸν Μοίσαις φίλον ἄνδρα, τὸν οὐ Νύμφαισιν ἀπεχθῆ.

(I, 139-141)

The incontrovertible authenticity of Daphnis’ death acts as an ultimate reflection on his values, and on the strength of his commitment to them. Yet the cause that the fact and manner of his death so dignify is precisely resistance to the “creative spontaneity” of the individual man.

The final speech of Daphnis is concluded in positive terms, which seem perplexing in view of his mood; but the alternative would be a curse, the anti-formulation of the Eumenides’ blessing at the end of the Oresteia. Daphnis wants to make reference to his reciprocal relation with nature, already expressed in the mourning of the animals for his death, in his own farewell to the wild beasts and to the river, in his virtual identification of himself with his flocks and their care. Appropriately, his last words posit this relation again, this time in the form of a fantasy—not a projection, but an image of damage to nature that is proportionate and qualitatively related to his own situation. If he faces annihilation of identity and dissolution of integrity in the stream (ῥόον, I, 140) of death, which “brings forgetfulness of all things” (I, 63), so must nature forget itself and yield up the integrity of its order and the identity of its elements in a dissolution of those boundaries and laws that link each entity to its product, form to function. Daphnis is not proposing a curse, projecting a blight, because of his blighted career, in his infectious embitterment; rather, he states that external situation of nature that would correspond to his own external μοῖρα. There is no element here of the pathetic fallacy. Daphnis’ is a vision, not a perception, and is uncontaminated by sentiment.

νῦν δ᾽ ἴα μὲν φορέοιτε βάτοι, φορέοιτε δ᾽ ἄκανθαι,
ἁ δὲ καλὰ νάρκισσος ἐπ᾽ ἀρκεύθοισι κομάσαι·
πάντα δ᾽ ἔναλλα γένοιτο, καὶ ἁ πίτυς ὄχνας ἐνείκαι.
Δάφνις ἐπεὶ θνάσκει· καὶ τὼς κύνας ὥλαφος ἕλκοι,
κἠξ ὀρέων τοὶ σκῶπες ἀηδόσι γαρύσαιντο.

(I, 132-136)

A mixture of transformations—from positive to negative, as well as negative to positive—might seem more even-handedly to convey this sense of identity reduced to miscellany. But the emphasis on the negative to positive mode serves to enforce the crucial notion here: a question not of degeneration in kind, but sheer loss of integrity, even if the translation is to a “better” or “higher” state. The situation of Odysseus, as he confronts Calypso, typifies this dimension of threat. The peculiarity of Daphnis’ statement is thus decipherable in terms of his courage. His repudiation of the pathetic fallacy is best illuminated by the comment of Ruskin, who formulated the concept itself as Chapter XII of Modern Painters, Part IV:

Whether or not Daphnis can be conceived as retaining a personal memory in Hades is not clear, but what is beyond doubt is the survival of his story in the song of Thyrsis. “The woes of Daphnis” (τὰ Δάφνιδος ἄλγε᾽, I, 19) are not an idiosyncratic and intimate subject, like “Resolution and Independence” or “Dejection,” but rather an acknowledged public theme, like the wrath of Achilles or the labors of Heracles—only, in this instance, a theme appropriate to the genre of bucolic song (τᾶς βουκολικᾶς … μοίσας, I, 20). Extensive research has clarified the force of “remembering” and “forgetting” in archaic Greek poetry [46] and has established these processes as aspects of a dialectic elemental to the view archaic poetry takes of itself and the claim that it makes for its own potency. This is the traditional conception behind the Goatherd’s appeal—

                                        πόταγ᾽ ὦγαθέ· τὰν γὰρ ἀοιδὰν
οὔτί πᾳ εἰς ᾿Αίδαν γε τὸν ἐκλελάθοντα φυλαξεῖς.

(I, 62-63)

—to which Thyrsis responds with the song itself, as if reinforcing, with the immediacy of his answer, the urgency of threat concealed in the Goatherd’s teasing manner. Whether or not Daphnis is claiming that he will remember himself in the Underworld (102-103), in that undiminished integrity that the Odyssey establishes as rare and potent (xi), certainly the Daphnis song itself preserves his memory beyond that personal oblivion that it records. Indeed, the victory of Daphnis and Aphrodite’s defeat are reanimated in reiteration, and even in Hades, Daphnis is a bitter grief to Love.


A number of formal elements in the Daphnis song attest to this central allegiance to the values of archaic poetry. The invocation to the Muses, the refrain, the reliance on parallelism in building up the poetic structure, combine to give substance to the deliberate identification that the Daphnis song cultivates between its style and that of a poetic tradition that antedates Theocritus by many centuries.

The poem makes its effects by means of balancing similar or equivalent forces and forms. Goatherd and shepherd match each other in measured utterance, according to the pattern imposed in the opening lines of the Idyll, where not only the length and tone of the speeches, but their very diction and content proceed in mirror images. Piping and singing, pine and brook, Pan and the Muses, goat-prize and sheep-prize: the pairs accumulate with formal deliberation. One function of the extensive description of the cup is to balance substantially and aesthetically the pastoral song of Thyrsis, so that neither the shepherd nor the Goatherd dominates the poem as a whole; the fact that the cup and the song are exchanged is associated with this theme.

The lineal progression of Thyrsis’ song, with its account of Daphnis’ history in time, is modified by the gnomic concentration of the verses, in their short and densely iterative groupings, and by the constant interjection of the refrain. This refrain, which is the most striking formal element in the βουκολικά (20), does not appear again in a Theocritean “pastoral song;” tellingly, its only other occurrence is in the urban night-scene of Idyll II, where the hypnotic repetition of the phrases, with its formal origin in the pulse of the spell, finds its physical equivalent in the revolving ἶυγξ and its psychological equivalent in the obsessive circling of Simaetha’s thoughts. In the song of Thyrsis, the refrain lacks this inevitability and yet is apparently not an intrinsic feature, marking any bucolic song. Its effect here is to punctuate the intensity of the narrative with a recurring formal reference beyond it, which insists on the character and stature of the composition in a number of ways.

The atmosphere of mystery and crisis that pervades the Daphnis story is heightened by the constant intervention of the refrain, which isolates each statement and development of events in a neutral frame that serves as a foil to urgency and that, in its fragmentation of the action, reinforces the theme of disruption and discontinuity. The exhortation to “Begin … begin” provides impulsion and creates suspense in the course of its repetitions (7 times) and renewal (“Begin … begin again”—8 times), finally modulating to the closure, “Cease … come cease” (4 times). The rising movement of the poem (65-93: interrogation and lamentation) makes its transition to the central conflict (95-121: confrontation with Cypris) by means of the newly emphatic refrain, “Begin … begin again” and marks its last phase (123-141) with a call to the Muses to “Cease … cease.” Song, story, and the life of Daphnis make a simultaneous end in the brief falling movement of legacy and epitaph that accompanies this final version. As a vehicle of dramatic tension, the refrain has altered its critical imperatives, but its formulaic shape has remained static:

–  ⏑  ⏑    – ⏑ ⏑ –    – –   ⏑ ⏑ – ⏑    ⏑ – –
-ετε βουκολικᾶς, Μοῖσαι – – – ετ᾽ ἀοιδᾶς.

The unity that the recurrent shape of the refrain lends to the Daphnis song is due, as well, to its constant elements. These are the identification of the composition (βουκολικᾶς … ἀοιδᾶς) and of the source of the composition (Μοῖσαι; initially, Μοῖσαι φίλαι). The self-consciousness of the medium that this identification reflects will prove to be a generically defining feature of the pastoral, which, in its conventional preoccupation with its own nature, power, and conditions of composition, far exceeds the limits that other ancient genres place on overt self-reference. Tragedy, at one extreme, eschews any such reflexive element, although comedy allows both varieties of drama among its subjects. Epic, as recent demonstrations have clarified in detail, [47] evolved a specialized diction within its formulaic language to invoke the medium’s conception of itself. Despite its first-person convention, ancient Greek lyric assumes rather than explores its own form and function. Individual authorship is not the determinant of poetic self-consciousness; epic is a traditional genre, tragedy is a literate one. But the literate and sophisticated Theocritus, choosing to invoke and imitate certain features of the traditional Greek poetry in an invented context, reanimates the issue of generic self-acknowledgement with a power that loses none of its vitality in the long evolution of Western pastoral. The archaism of the pastoral originates, not in its decisive revival by Vergil, but in its imaginative conception by Theocritus. [48]

Thrysis’ invocation of the Muses, familiar from its Homeric and Hesiodic contexts, is associated with a special idea of the role and responsibility of the poet. Such modern dimensions of poetic excellence as originality, individuality, and sincerity are without meaning in this context, which is social and cultural, rather than specifically and exclusively artistic. The non-literate poet has no notion of personal authorship. Only the immediate and unique performance/composition is his own: for this occasion, this purpose, his is the sounding voice—literally, the voice of the composition’s tradition, but conceptually the voice of the Muses.

Gregory Nagy cites this passage from the Iliad in the course of his powerful argument for the implications of κλέος as epic poetry’s description of itself according to Indo-European patterns. The structure of the pair of lines serves also to distinguish explicitly the spheres of the Muses and of the poets, setting them forth in parallel statements whose contrast is pointed in the opening words:

ὑμεῖς γὰρ …
ἡμεῖς δὲ …

‘you moreover …
we however …’

The point is made by means of simple opposition. While we (ἡμεῖς) mortal singers merely hear (ἀκούομεν) the song of fame (κλέος), you (ὑμεῖς) Muses are (ἐστε) goddesses, are present (πάρεστέ) at events; you know (ἴστέ) everything (πάντα), while we know (ἴδμεν) nothing (οὐδέ τι). The Muses remind the poet of his song (μνησαίαθ᾽; B495) [
50] by the perfect authority of the original perception from which it sprang. The poet’s connection with events is indirect and vulnerable, through the fragile medium of hearing (κλέος = “that which is heard”), [51] while the Muses enjoy the absolute access of viewing events directly.

This vulnerability takes several forms. One is developed richly by Theocritus himself in his Idyll XVI, an appeal for patronage to Hiero of Syracus.

Μουσάων δὲ μάλιστα τίειν ἱεροὺς ὑποφήτας,
ὄφρα καὶ εἰν ᾿Αίδαο κεκρυμμένος ἐσθλὸς ἀκούσῃς,
μηδ᾽ ἀκλεὴς μύρηαι ἐπὶ ψυχροῦ ᾿Αχέροντος,
ὡσεί τις μακέλᾳ τετυλωμένος ἔνδοθι χεῖρας
ἀχὴν ἐκ πατέρων πενίην ἀκτήμονα κλαίων.

(XVI, 29-33)

Nagy observes of Iliad B486, “… the collocation of ‘hearing’ and kleos bears witness to the etymology. Archaic theme reinforces archaic meaning.” [
52] Here Theocritus rings three changes on the conception—ἀκούσῃς, ἀκλεὴς, and κλαίων—as he opens his argument for the essential service performed by the ἀιοδός for the hero, and closes this passage with the definite statement

᾿Εκ Μοισᾶν ἀγαθὸν κλέος ἔρχεται ἀνθρώποισι,

(XVI, 58)

Honor the Muses, dispensers of κλέος, and you will hear (ἀκούσῃς) your good report through their agents, the poets; ignore them and, unhonored (ἀκλεὴς), you will share the obscurity of one who has only his poverty to sound (κλαίων). Gow’s commentary (on line 30 ff.; pp. 311-312) offers numerous parallel passages expressing the desire to leave a name, and the power of poetry to secure this end. The famous complaint of Alexander that he envied Achilles his bard succinctly exemplifies the traditional connection of these ideas, which represents a fundamental Indo-European conception of the poet’s social role. [

But the power that is recognized as belonging to the singer is celebrated precisely for its few vigorous successes against stunning odds. The poet confers praise or blame, transmitting κλέος ἄφθιτον or πένθος ἄλαστον or μῶμος [54] —but only in the case of those individuals whose victories, infamies, or defeats bear inclusion in the tradition, the transmitted song. This is a tiny minority in comparison with the great throng whose histories, like their consciousnesses, are lost in the oblivion of Hades, where they forget themselves and are by their survivors forgotten. Although Marcel Detienne, in his masterly approach to these themes, rightly associates the notion of blame (μῶμος) with silence, obscurity, and unrememberedness, [55] these are ideas that archaic poetry—and in particular the praise poets Pindar and Bacchylides—links with blame in order to articulate the nature of the values that it represents. Mute oblivion can be embodied only negatively, as passive omission from the tradition; to be invoked as an alternative to the living tradition, the “death” of exclusion had to be rephrased by alliance with the concrete and active terms of blame and invective. Perhaps the aristocratic audience of Homer and Pindar, despite their many differences, shared an elite class consciousness that assumed that the tradition could fully encompass the limited number of relevant families in its sphere of praise and blame. But Theocritus enjoys no such security.

Urban Alexandria and Syracuse bore witness to another world, whose significant inhabitants are no longer selected and named:

ὦ θεοί, ὅσσος ὄχλος. πῶς καὶ πόκα τοῦτο περᾶσαι
χρὴ τὸ κακόν; μύρμακες ἀνάριθμοι καὶ ἄμετροι.

(XV, 44-45)

Geography has pushed back the horizon; conquest and commerce have identified myriad populations and cultures:

μυρίαι ἄπειροί τε καὶ ἔθνεα μυρία φωτῶν
λήιον ἀλδήσκουσιν ὀφελλόμεναι Διὸς ὄμβρῳ·
ἀλλ᾽ οὔτις τόσα φύει, ὅσα χθαμαλὰ Αἴγυπτος,
. . . .
τρεῖς μέν οἱ πολίων ἑκατοντάδες ἐνδέδμηνται,
τρεῖς δ᾽ ἄρα χιλιάδες τρισσαῖς ἐπὶ μυριάδεσσι,
δοιαὶ δὲ τριάδες, μετὰ δέ σφισιν ἐννεάδες τρεῖς·

(XVII, 77-79; 82-84)

The pressure of this undifferentiated crowd affects Theocritus’ presentation of the singer and his potency. Anonymity and oblivion are threats with new vividness and imminence. Repeatedly, Theocritus ignores the literary annihilation of “blame” to contrast the vitality and perennial identity embodied in poetry with the elemental obscurity of death.

                                        τί δὲ κάλλιον ἀνδρί κεν εἴη
ὀλβίῳ ἢ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἀρέσθαι;
τοῦτο καὶ ᾿Ατρείδαισι μένει· τὰ δὲ μυρία τῆνα,
ὅσσα μέγαν Πριάμοιο δόμον κτεάτισσαν ἑλόντες,
ἀέρι πᾳ κέκρυπται, ὅθεν πάλιν οὐκέτι νόστος·

(XVII, 116-120)

Riches offer transient satisfaction:

ἀλλ᾽ οὔ σφιν τῶν ἦδος, ἐπεὶ γλυκὺν ἐξεκένωσαν
θυμὸν ἐς εὐρεῖαν σχεδίαν στυγνοῦ ᾿Αχέροντος,
ἄμναστοι δὲ τὰ πολλὰ καὶ ὄλβια τῆνα λιπόντες
δειλοῖς ἐν νεκύεσσι μακροὺς αἰῶνας ἔκειντο,
εἰ μὴ κεῖνος ἀοιδὸς ὁ Κήιος αἰόλα φωνέων
βάρβιτον ἐς πολύχορδον ἐν ἀνδράσι θῆκ᾽ ὀνομαστοὺς
. . . .
᾿Εκ Μοισᾶν ἀγαθὸν κλέος ἔρχεται ἀνθρώποισι,
χρήματα δὲ ζώοντες ἀμαλδύνουσι θανόντων.

(XVI, 40-46; 58-59)

Great deeds are, in themselves, insufficient:

τίς δ᾽ ἂν ἀριστῆας Λυκίων ποτέ, τίς κομόωντας
Πριαμίδας ἢ θῆλυν ἀπὸ χροιᾶς Κύκνον ἔγνω,
εἰ μὴ φυλόπιδας προτέρων ὕμνησαν ἀοιδοί;
οὐδ᾽ ᾿Οδυσεὺς ἑκατόν τε καὶ εἴκοσι μῆνας ἀλαθεὶς
πάντας ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώπους, ᾿Αίδαν τ᾽ εἰς ἔσχατον ἐλθὼν
ζωός, καὶ σπήλυγγα φυγὼν ὀλοοῖο Κύκλωπος,
δηναιὸν κλέος ἔσχεν, ἐσιγάθη δ᾽ ἂν ὑφορβὸς
Εὔμαιος, καὶ βουσὶ Φιλοίτιος ἀμφ᾽ ἀγελαίαις
ἔργον ἔχων, αὐτός τε περίσπλαγχνος Λαέρτης,
εἰ μή σφεας ὤνασαν ᾿Ιάονος ἀνδρὸς ἀοιδαί.
. . . .
ἔσσεται οὗτος ἀνήρ, ὃς ἐμεῦ κεχρήσετ᾽ ἀοιδοῦ,
ῥέξας ἢ ᾿Αχιλεὺς ὅσσον μέγας ἢ βαρὺς Αἴας
ἐν πεδίῳ Σιμόεντος, ὅθι Φρυγὸς ἠρίον ῎Ιλου.

(XVI, 48-57; 73-75)

Even personal and intimate satisfactions find their ultimate dimension of fulfillment in escape from obliteration in death:

εἴθ᾽ ὁμαλοὶ πνεύσειαν ἐπ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισιν ῎Ερωτες
νῶιν, ἐπεσσομένοις δὲ γενοίμεθα πᾶσιν ἀοιδά.
θείω δή τινε τώδε μετὰ προτέροισι γενέσθην
φῶθ᾽, ὁ μὲν εἴσπνηλος, φαίη χ᾽ ὡμυκλαϊάσδων,
τὸν δ᾽ ἕτερον πάλιν ὥς κεν ὁ Θεσσαλὸς εἴποι ἀίταν.
ἀλλήλους δ᾽ ἐφίλησαν ἴσῳ ζυγῷ. ἦ ῥα τότ᾽ ἦσαν
χρύσειοι πάλιν ἄνδρες, ὃ κἀντεφίλησ᾽ ὁ φιληθείς.
εἰ γὰρ τοῦτο πάτερ Κρονίδα πέλοι, εἰ γὰρ ἀγήρῳ
ἀθάνατοι, γενεαῖς δὲ διηκοσίαισιν ἔπειτα
ἀγγείλειεν ἐμοί τις ἀνέξοδον εἰς ᾿Αχέροντα·
‘ἡ σὴ νῦν φιλότης καὶ τοῦ χαρίεντος ἀίτεω
πᾶσι διὰ στόματος, μετὰ δ᾽ ἠιθέοισι μάλιστα.’

(XII, 10-21)

The transcendence of generations, the preservation of the χρύσειοι … ἄνδρες (16) [
56] from the dark tarnish of time are properties not of historical reputation but of the power of the αἰοδή. Theocritus throughout his poetry ignores the potential of poetry to lambaste or defame, in his emphasis on its fundamental capacity to endure in time. Just as they offer a φάρμακον (XI, 1) for the wounds of love, the Muses compensate for the final vulnerability: mortality. Song makes the past and its truths accessible to those stranded in distant times and promises continuity to the present, which otherwise the future threatens with dissolution. Survival in this context is not personal and individual, but associative and collective.

          πόταγ᾽ ὦγαθέ· τὰν γὰρ ἀοιδὰν
οὔτί πᾳ εἰς ᾿Αίδαν γε τὸν ἐκλελάθοντα φυλαξεῖς.

(I, 62-63)

The song must be relinquished in Hades by each singer, but, unlike the man himself, need not pass to that land “ὅθεν πάλιν οὐκέτι νόστος” (XVII, 120). This conception of the oral transmission of poetry both assumes and ensures cultural continuity and social coherence, because it depends on shared interests and values that operate not as taste or opinion but as an active principle embodied—not merely expressed—in a reciprocal social interaction. If the song is not sung, it dies; if the song is not heard, its subject and its singer perish together.


[ back ] 1. My framework for the study of Greek literature, as I acknowledge more fully elsewhere, has been established by the writings and lectures of John H. Finley, Jr. This framework, and the perspectives it so richly suggests, are concisely presented in Four Stages of Greek Thought 1966, Stanford and London. His account of evolution and continuity in Greek thinking takes us from Homer (‘The Heroic Mind’) through Aeschylus and Sophocles (‘The Visionary Mind’), to Euripides and Thucydides (‘The Theoretical Mind’) and on to Plato and Aristotle (‘The Rational Mind’), ending within fifty years of the period in which Theocritus flourished. This book, and the fourth and last chapter in particular, serve as a foundation for my present study. We may say of Professor Finley’s works as a whole what he says (p. 3) of the Greek classic, referring it to “the idea of exemplar. … The true classic at once gives and spurs, and it can do both simultaneously because in the immensity and novelty of experience sharing is not hostile to independence—on the contrary, it is the self’s first companion and longest interlocutor.”

[ back ] 2. Milman Parry’s 1928 thésis L’Epithete traditionelle dans Homére; Essai sur un problème de style homérique (Paris) initiated modern Homeric scholarship. All of Parry’s work is now available in English as The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry (Oxford), edited by Adam Parry 1971. A.B. Lord, his co-worker, extended their conclusions in his The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, Mass. 1960). Three diverse surveys of traditional/‘oral’ poetry are B.A. Stolz and R.S. Shannon, editors, 1976 Oral Literature and the Formula (Ann Arbor), R. Finnegan 1977, Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance, and Social Context (Cambridge) and F.J. Oinas, editor, 1978, Heroic Epic and Saga (Bloomington and London). G. Nagy 1979 The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry (Baltimore and London) not only treats many topics in the Homeric epics but extends its discussion to include other dimensions of Greek archaic poetic tradition (e.g. Hesiod, Pindar, etc.) and their cultural context. It therefore serves the additional function of methodological model (see in particular the “Introduction: A Word on Assumptions, Methods, Results,” pp. 1-11) and contains a comprehensive bibliography. Of the items cited, many of which establish or draw on researches in Indo-European poetics, we may mention especially M. Detienne 1973, Les maîtres de vérité dans la Grèece archaïque (Paris); J.H. Finley 1978, Homer’s Odyssey (Cambridge, Mass.); D. Frame 1978, The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic (New Haven); F.W. Householder and G. Nagy 1972, “Greek,” in Current Trends in Linguistics IX, edited by T.A. Sebeok, pp. 735-816; J.T. Kakridis 1949, Homeric Researches (Lund); G.S. Kirk 1962, The Songs of Homer (Cambridge); L. Muellner 1976, The Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI through its Formulas (Innsbruck); M. Nagler 1974, Spontaneity and Tradition: A Study in the Oral Art of Homer (Berkeley and Los Angeles); G. Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies in Greek and Indic Meter (Cambridge, Mass.); R. Schmitt 1967, Dichtung und Dichtersprache in indo-germanischer Zeit (Weisbaden); R.S. Shannon 1975, The Arms of Achilles and Homeric Compositional Technique (Leiden); J.-P. Vernant 1966, Mythe et pensée chez les Grecs: Etudes de psychologie historique, 2nd ed. (Paris); C.H. Whitman 1958, Homer and the Heroic Tradition (Cambridge, Mass.).

[ back ] 3. M. Parry 1928a, L’épithète traditionelle (translated in A. Parry 1971, The Making of Homeric Verse, p. 1-190).

[ back ] 4. M. Parry 1930, “Studies in the Epic Tradition of Oral verse-Making I” (Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 41:73-147), in A. Parry 1971, The Making of Homeric Verse, p. 272.

[ back ] 5. The use of the name “Homer,” in accordance with the habitual classification of the Iliad and Odyssey, does not imply an assumption of individual authorship that would conflict with the established formulations of the Parry/Lord theory of oral transmission. The decisive impact of one or more superlative performer/composer(s) on our Iliad and our Odyssey is not, of course, to be discounted as a part of their tradition.

[ back ] 6. Lord 1960, Singer of Tales, p. 147. Emphasis is the author’s.

[ back ] 7. Gow 1952, Theocritus I; 1xvi.

[ back ] 8. The principal books on Theocritus in English both take this stance. T.G. Rosenmeyer 1969, The Green Cabinet: Theocritus and the European Pastoral Lyric (Berkeley and Los Angeles) insists that “the pastoral … poem as a whole is a trope.” Although “Theocritus resists decoding … if, nevertheless, we feel that the poem has more to tell us than it actually states, it will not do to examine individual words or phrases for figurative secrets, or to look at the action, or the sub-actions, as condensations of a larger meaning. If the poem strikes us as more meaningful than its parts, we must go back to our original contention about the affinity between the pastoral and the Epicurean creed. … The principal tropical burden of the Theocritean pastoral lyric is Epicurean” (pp. 278-280). G. Lawall 1967, Theocritus’ Coan Pastoral: A Poetry Book (Washington, D.C.) concludes, “Idyll 7 is thus by no means an isolated production, but rather emerges as a pastiche, an elaborate transferal, adaptation, and regrouping of the language, places, characters, literary forms, and dramatic situations of the Coan Idylls. In an amazing feat of creative imagination these elements are lifted from dramatic poems and reused as the basic material out of which Theocritus constructs his autobiographical reminiscence. The concluding Idyll in the collection is thus a recapitulation of the entire poetry book. It is not only a formal, but also a metaphysical, recapitulation. The contrasts, dichotomies, and tensions existing within and among the earlier Idylls and restated in the pattern of the poem as a whole … The restatement in Idyll 7 of the typically Theocritean tension of opposite pulls takes place in personal autobiographical terms. … Even the scene of relaxation on Phrasidamus’ farm derives much of its satisfying effect from the overlay of fantasy and poetic symbols. The split between the two worlds in which man lives is the basic subject not only of the earlier poems arranged in contrasting juxtapositions, but especially of the concluding Idyll with its personal autobiographical exploration of the metaphysical preoccupations of the Coan Theocritus. Just as the seventh Idyll is not an isolated production, so also the Coan poetry book as a whole, and especially its metaphysically oriented pastoral design, may be located in a tradition of escapist, utopian literature and philosophy…. It may be no coincidence that Epicurus was philosophizing in his Garden in Athens while Theocritus was writing his pastoral Idylls on Cos, although one need not seek any direct link between the philosopher and the poet” (pp. 115-117). Lawall thus answers Rosenmeyer’s main line of argument, while propounding his own, He is prepared even in his introductory chapter to call the conclusion of Idyll VII (“an allegory of poetic inspiration,” praising it as “a scene of perfect fulfillment and contentment. It is not, however, merely a realistic scene” (p. 12). The emphasis in this quotation is mine. An early modern literary perspective on Theocritus was that of A. Parry 1957, “Landscape in Greek Poetry,” Yale Classical Studies 15:3-29. Evidently inspired by W. Empson (in particular, his Some Versions of Pastoral, Norfolk, Conn. 1960), he presents stimulating readings of Idyll I in the course of his broader discussion, and yet concludes that “by a subtle device, it is the very magical unreality of the poetic landscape in the first Idyll that prevails upon us to accept Daphnis’ words as straightforward dramatic utterance; for this unreality wins us to itself. The unreality, be it noted, is not that of the exotic and far-away; rather, it is the unreality of happy simplicity. … Pastoral might be described as a cover in an age of irony. It arose in Greece at a time when writers felt it impossible to deal with strong emotion directly and when literary works with reference to immediate experience were, for that reason, slight. … It is only within a contrived setting, where sophistication can transport the reader into a world of nature, that poetic expression can achieve a kind of beauty and greatness. … The pastoral, by finding the sources of its strength in a nature which no longer includes society, constitutes an implicit criticism of that society. In the fully developed pastoral, to be sure, the criticism is nowhere openly stated. … And then there is a further dimension in Theocritus, in that he tends to address himself to a circle of friends forming a sort of society within a society, a circle which, through its very refinement, is less irrevocably removed from nature than metropolitan life at large” (pp. 14-15). The emphasis is, again, mine. Renato Poggioli 1975, The Oaten Flute: Essays on Pastoral Poetry and the Pastoral Ideal (Cambridge, Mass.) offers a study in comparative literature rather than in Theocritean pastoral. Nonetheless, he adopts Rosenmeyer’s identification of ἁσυχία with otium (pp. 44 ff.) and presents this concept, in his introductory chapter, as they key pastoral theme—but his moral judgment is just the opposite of Rosenmeyer’s. “The psychological root of the pastoral is a double longing after innocence and happiness, to be recovered not through conversion or regeneration but merely through a retreat. … [T]he pastoral ideal shifts on the quicksands of wishful thought. Wishful thinking is the weakest of all moral and religious resorts; but it is the stuff dreams, especially daydreams, are made of. … The bucolic dream has no other reality than that of imagination and art … In brief, the pastoral dispensation and its cultural fruits are … [not] classical in essence. They are not a Hellenic but a Hellenistic product, which Roman literature inherited, and which each neoclassical age has reshaped in its own fashion after the Vergilian pattern or, less frequently, from Theocritus’ original model … Vergil and after him many others have followed Theocritus’ example in the pastoral, not only in conformity with the relaxation and emotional release … looking with more irony at life and recoiling from the tragic and heroic sides of human experience. … As with all ways or visions of life, the pastoral implies a new ethos, which, however, is primarily negative” (pp. 3-4). The emphasis is mine. Finally a prolific recent commentator, C. Segal, has interpreted a number of the Idylls from the point of view that Theocritus is “a poet of consummate literary artistry, wit, and irony. … Theocritus certainly lacks the tension between historical reality and poetry which gives the Eclogues their special depth and poignancy; but he has a seriousness of a different sort. The simplicity and trivial realism which are sometimes attributed to the bucolic Idylls are in fact themselves part of the poetic fiction and so often stand in deliberate self-contradiction with mythical elements in the form and structure of the work. The descriptive elements in Theocritus’ poetic landscape are not purely ornamental, but are related to one another both within the individual poems and across separate poems as constituent parts of a total design, like letters in an alphabet which we can eventually learn to read. To describe these landscapes as ‘symbolic’ is to say both too much and too little. The uniqueness of Theocritus’ bucolic corpus … lies in the complete fusion of surface and latent meaning” (C. Segal 1975, “Landscape into Myth: Theocritus’ Bucolic Poetry,” Ramus 4, No. 2:115). The emphasis is mine. Gow’s volume of commentary takes account of Theocritean scholarship up to 1952; Lawall and Rosenmeyer offer, respectively, precise and diverse bibliographical references in this area. For the purposes of this thesis, the articles by Segal that are of special importance are “Theocritus’ Seventh Idyll and Lycidas,” Weiner Studien N.F. 8:20-76 (1974c) and “’Since Daphnis Dies’: The Meaning of Theocritus’ First Idyll,” Museum Helveticum 31:1-22 (1974b). These articles, and the one already cited (Segal 1975, “Landscape into Myth”) are additionally rich in their reviews of, and responses to, recent scholarship on Theocritean pastoral. P. Alpers 1979, The Singer of the Eclogues: A Study of Virgilian Pastoral (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London) was not available to me until this thesis was complete. It naturally offers the advantages of a study informed by the most recent work in the field. Beyond this, however, the author brings to bear upon his material (largely Vergilian, although considerable attention is paid to Theocritus in the last chapter, “Virgil’s Higher Mood”) both the sensibility and the training necessary to produce what, from my preliminary glance, promises to be the strongest literary treatment of Theocritus available in English.

[ back ] 9. Lord 1960, Singer of Tales, p. 221.

[ back ] 10. “We know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but know, when we will, to utter true things.” English translation by H.G. Evelyn-White, editor, Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns and Homerica (Cambridge, Mass. And London, 1914), p. 81. For the Greek text for authors other than Theocritus, I have used to editions of the Oxford Classical Texts series.

[ back ] 11. For a provocative discussion of this issue, see P. Pucci 1977, Hesiod and the Language of Poetry (Baltimore).

[ back ] 12. “If there were / some token now, some mark to make the division / clear between friend and friend, the true and the false! / All me should have two voices …” English translation by D. Grene 1942, in Euripides I (1955, Chicago and London), p. 201.

[ back ] 13. Cf. Theogony 1, 1021-22; Homeric Hymns: To Dionysus (I) 17-20; To Demeter 1, 495; To Apollo 1, 156-161, 164-167, 177-178, 545-546; To Hermes 1, 580; To Aphrodite (V) 1, 292-293; To Aphrodite (VI) 1, 19-21; To Dionysus (VII) 1, 58-59; To Pan 1, 48-49; etc. See, in this connection, H. Koller 1956, “Das kitharodische Prooimion: Eine formegeschichtliche Untersuchung.” Philologus 100:159-206. Theocritus himself imitates this hymnic feature as a purely formal device in his secular “hymn” to Ptolemy (Idyll XVII) which, in its circular structure, fulfills its promise to begin and end with Zeus.

[ back ] 14. Cf. Detienne 1973a, Les maîtres de vérité, chapter two; Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies, “Epilogue: the Hidden Meaning of κλέος ἄφθιτον and śráva(s) áksitam,” especially pp. 244-261; and Nagy 1979, Best of the Achaeans, chapter one.

[ back ] 15. Cf. C. Watkins 1977, “on μῆνις,” Indo-European Studies 3:686-722.

[ back ] 16. T.S. Eliot 1932, “Hamlet,” in his Selected Essays (London), p. 145. Emphasis is the author’s.

[ back ] 17. Eliot 1932, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Selected Essays (London), p. 21. The distinction between “feelings” and “emotions” that seems implicit in this passage is made overt earlier in the essay (“… the elements … are of two kinds: emotions and feelings,” p. 18), but no further qualification of their difference is offered. Eliot goes on to make an assumption that perhaps underlies this distinction and that is central to this line of thinking about poetry: “The effect of a work of art upon the person who enjoys it is an experience different in kind from any experience not of art,” p. 18.

[ back ] 18. See note 9 above. Also cf. F. Griffiths 1973, Theocritus’ Hymn to the Dioscuri (Dissertation, Harvard) and Theocritus at Court (forthcoming). Cf. Wallace Stevens 1942, The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination (New York), writing on “Imagination as Value,” p. 155-156: “But to be able to see the portal of literature, that is to say: the portal of the imagination, as a scene of normal love and normal beauty is, of itself, a feat of great imagination. It is the vista a man sees, seated in the public garden of his native town, near by some effigy of a figure celebrated in the normal world, as he considers that the chief problems of any artist, as of any man, are the problems of the normal and that he needs, in order to solve them, everything that the imagination has to give.”

[ back ] 19. P. de Man 1960, “Intentional Structure of the Romantic Image,” revision by the author in Romanticism and Consciousness (H. Bloom, ed., New York 1970), p. 69.

[ back ] 20. Empson 1960, Some Versions of Pastoral, p. 179.

[ back ] 21. M. Mauss 1925, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies (I. Cunnison, trans., reprinted in New York 1967), p. 89.

[ back ] 22. C. Watkins 1975, “The Etymology of Irish dúan ‘poem,’” Indo-European Studies 2:350-366.

[ back ] 23. Watkins 1975, “Irish dúan,” p. 352.

[ back ] 24. Mauss 1925, The Gift, p. 3. Emphasis is the author’s.

[ back ] 25. E. Benveniste 1969, Le vocabluaire des institutions indo-européennes I (Paris), pp. 65-79.

[ back ] 26. J. Lallot, summary to chapter on “Don et échange” in Benveniste 1969, Le vocabulaire I:65.

[ back ] 27. Benveniste 1969, Le vocabulaire I:76-77. Mauss (1925, The Gift, p. 4) observes that “potlatch meant originally ‘to nourish’ or ‘to consume’” adding in a footnote (p. 84) that “the two meanings suggested, gift and food, are not exclusive since the usual content of the gift, here at any rate, is food.”

[ back ] 28. Watkins 1975, “Irish dúan,” p. 365.

[ back ] 29. Watkins 1975, “Irish dúan,” p. 365.

[ back ] 30. Watkins 1975, “Irish dúan,” p. 365. References to the overt notion of food, especially in a sacred meal, are fully documented in connection with several derivatives of the Indo-European root *dap– in Benveniste’s chapter on “Don et échange” (1969, Le vocabulaire I:65-79) as well as in Watkin’s discussion of Irish dúan .

[ back ] 31. Benveniste 1969, Le vocabulaire I:77.

[ back ] 32. Mauss 1925, The Gift, pp. 10-11.

[ back ] 33. Mauss 1925, The Gift, pp. 76-77: “the facts we have studied are all ‘total’ social phenomena. … These phenomena are at once legal, economic, religious, aesthetic, morphological and so on. … Moreover, these institutions have an important aesthetic side which we have left unstudied; but the dances performed, the songs and shows, the dramatic representations given between camps or partners, the objects made, used, decorated, polished, amassed and transmitted with affection, received with joy, given away in triumph, the feats in which everyone participates—all these, the food, objects and services, are the source of aesthetic emotions as well as emotions aroused by interest.”

[ back ] 34. See note 15 above.

[ back ] 35. Cf. Odyssey viii 499, in which the Phaiacian bard Demodocus begins his third song. On his songs in general, cf. in particular Nagy 1979, Best of the Achaeans, Part I entitled “Demodokos, Odyssey, Iliad,” p. 15 ff.

[ back ] 36. Cf. also the spurious Idyll XXV.

[ back ] 37. Cf. Mauss 1925, The Gift and Watkins 1975, “Irish dúan,” as well as Nagy 1979, Best of the Achaeans, Part II.

[ back ] 38. J. Ruskin 1856, Modern Painters (London) III:171. Cf. also Empson 1960, Some Versions of Pastoral, pp. 55-56 on the pathetic fallacy in A.E. Housman.

[ back ] 39. M. Eliade 1959, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return (New York), p. 156.

[ back ] 40. Eliade 1959, Cosmos and History, p. 47. For a view of Daphnis’ heroism in an epic or tragic context, cf. the brief remarks in A. Parry 1975, “Landscape in Greek Poetry,” pp. 11-13.

[ back ] 41. Eliade 1959, Cosmos and History, p. 47. But note that in Odyssey xi, only the unburied Elpenor and the prophet Teiresias address Odysseus without having drunk the sacrificial blood, and even the latter drinks before conversing fully with Odysseus. The pseudo-shade of Heracles, as we might expect, is also independent of this ritual, but in general the heroes share with, for example, Anticleia, an initial amnesia at least with respect to the identity of Odysseus. The conversation in Hades which opens Odyssey xxiv, on the other hand, seems to prove that among themselves, shades preserve the memory of their own histories and those of the living. This is true not only of the heroes—Achilles, Agamemnon, and so forth—but of the unheroic suitors slain by Odysseus.

[ back ] 42. Eliade 1959, Cosmos and History, p. 46.

[ back ] 43. Eliade 1959, Cosmos and History, pp. 46-47.

[ back ] 44. Eliade 1959, Cosmos and History, p. 46.

[ back ] 45. Ruskin 1856, Modern Painters III:171.

[ back ] 46. See note 15 above, principally Detienne 1973, Les maîtres de verite.

[ back ] 47. See note 15 above, and in particular Nagy 1979, Best of the Achaeans, pp. 222-242.

[ back ] 48. Cf. B. Snell 1955, “Arcadia: The Discovery of the Spiritual Landscape” in his The Discovery of the Mind, T.G. Rosenmeyer, trans. New York 1960. It should be added that the formal conservatism that characterizes the history of the pastoral must be seen as a tribute to the adaptability of the Theocritean forms to many revisionary contents, as well as to their persistent utility in the articulation of a key constellation of Western literary themes. The durability of pastoral poetry is, however, undoubtedly associated with its incorporation of the relationship of poetry to the individual, in a social context, as an overt and characteristic concern of the genre. For more than twenty centuries it remains a preferred literary vehicle for this subject.

[ back ] 49. Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies, p. 249. Italics are the author’s.

[ back ] 50. Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies, p. 250.

[ back ] 51. Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies, pp. 244 ff.

[ back ] 52. Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies, p. 249.

[ back ] 53. Cf. Watkins 1975, “Irish dúan” and Beneviste 1969, Le vocabulaire I:65 ff.

[ back ] 54. Cf. Nagy 1974, Comparative Studies, p. 261, and Nagy 1979, Best of the Achaeans, Part III.

[ back ] 55. Cf. Detienne 1967, Les maîtres de vérité, especially chapter two.

[ back ] 56. For further Theocritean associations with the “Golden Age,” see chapter two below.